Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Florida Bill Would Allow Patients To Know Healthcare Costs Up Front

doctor holding stethescope
Alex Proimos via Flickr

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has made health-care cost transparency a priority this year, and a Northeast Florida lawmaker is sponsoring a version of Scott’s vision.

Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) has filed a bill would make average prices for common hospital procedures easily accessible to patients.

On Friday, James Riley anxiously waited for his wife to get out of surgery inside St. Vincent’s hospital in Jacksonville.

“They don't tell you what’s what up front. Like my wife, she’s having surgery, but I don't even know what the price is going to be —  you know, my co-payment —  I don't know yet,” he said.

Riley himself recently underwent surgery for cataracts.  He says he didn’t learn he had a $350 co-pay until he arrived to go under the knife. Had he known, he says he would’ve been more financially prepared.

It’s situations like Riley's that Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) says his bill aims to avoid.

“People purchase health care, but they often don't know what they’re paying for it, and they have really no way to compare prices between different providers,” Bradley says. “So it really isn't a true market-based system.”

Under his bill, the state would create a claims database, a website using hospital pricing data, to inform patients about the average cost of common procedures.

It would also mandate hospitals give patients an itemized list of estimated costs upon request. If a hospital fails to do so, they’d be fined.

Florida Hospital Association President Bruce Rueben says he supports all of that in principle, but he’s vehemently opposed to a provision in Bradley’s bill penalizing a provider with at least a $2,500 fine if a procedure’s cost far exceeds the average price listed in the state database.

“There isn't anything about the government getting involved in setting rates that would be helpful or productive,” he says.

Rueben says the hospital association is more supportive of the House version of Bradley’s bill, filed by Rep. Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor). If passed, Sprowls’s bill would have the same transparency requirements, but wouldn’t levy penalties against providers if their prices exceed posted averages.

Bradley wouldn't say whether he’d be willing to nix his penalty provision to match the House version.

Photo used under Creative Commons license. 

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.